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  On Your Side

Featured Issue: Identity Theft


How Real is the Threat of Identity Theft?

What Can You Do To Protect Yourself and Family?

It really can happen to you. The crime of identity theft was committed against an estimated 700,000 U.S. consumers during 2001. Now, what was once just an occasional scam has become an epidemic. So, it's no longer safe to imagine yourself immune from it. Get smart before you get hurt.

The best course of action is to learn how to protect yourself against, and, in the worst case scenario, recover from the abuse of your personal information.

Just how damaging can identity theft be? The short answer is: Very.

Many people think identity theft is probably no worse than having someone use your credit card number to run up as big a bill as possible before being caught and stopped. After which all you'd need to do would be to report the fraudulent charges and have them removed from your account. End of story, right? Not necessarily.

How to Contact the Three Main Credit Bureaus

Equifax
(800) 685-1111
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374

TransUnion
(800) 888-4213
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022

Experian
(888) 397-3742
P. O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013

Today's ID criminals are often far more sophisticated than that. They could be using parts of your identity day-in-and-day-out right now - without your knowledge. Silently eroding your once reliable, honest reputation, and doing so without raising any immediate red flags. It could go on for years.

How to Get Off Mailing & Telemarketing Lists

1. Request to have your name removed from the marketing lists of the three main credit reporting bureaus.

2. You can view a sample opt-out letter for credit bureaus. How-to-contact the three credit bureaus is included on that web page, as well.

3. To remove your name from mail and telemarketing lists contact the Direct Marketing Association. NOTE: If you opt-out online it will cost $5.

4. Free opt-out requests can be made by sending snail mail to Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735; or Telephone Preference Service, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 11735.

By the time a crime like that is detected your problems will have only just begun´┐Żand correcting the damage could take years. Meanwhile the bad marks on your credit and other reports can impact your ability to get a loan. Or even a job.

People who have experienced ID theft also suffer in emotional ways. Recovering from the trauma of being robbed of your good name can take as much effort and time as correcting credit report or other reputation inaccuracies that linger long after the crime itself is discovered.

Some people figure, What's the use? When so much personal information is available and routinely exchanged in the course of our daily lives, isn't it impossible to protect yourself against ID theft? Shouldn't you just hope for the best and go about your life and business as usual?

Actually, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of identity theft.

Take advantage of the checklists and resources below to help prevent identity theft and to help you recover from it if you've been a victim.

Steps You Can Take to Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft

Prevention, as the old saying suggests, is invariably less painful than the cure, especially as it relates to recovering from identity theft. You may already practice some of these risk minimizing tips, but incorporating all of them into your ID-theft prevention program will be in your best interests. More . . .


  

Steps to Take if You Are a Victim of Identity Theft

If you've been a victim of identity theft, take these immediate steps: More . . .